Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked,
I cried to dream again.
Shakespeare, The Tempest (monologue of Caliban)
Spring weather is finally here, the Great Goddess, who is “the returning greenness of the grass after winter’s frost” (a quote from Anthony Aveni’s Conversations with the Planets) is with us in Europe, and there is a nice planetary line-up in the sign of Taurus, which compels me to return to Johfra’s paintings of the Zodiac.
In the painting there are two goddesses: one ethereal and heavenly on the left in the background and the other sensual, bodily and earthly in the centre. It is a pattern with Jofhra to depict the signs of the Zodiac like this: juxtaposing their traditional, exoteric meaning with their hidden, spiritual and esoteric significance.
The one who is sitting on the left hand side in the background is the High Priestess of the tarot deck, holding the keys to the power of our instinctual nature and all its hidden mysteries. Her body is completely covered, because she is the high priestess. She is clad in a green robe strengthening her connection with nature and vegetation cycles (ruled by the Moon, hence the goddess’ crown showing the Moon’s waxing, full and waning phases). Green has always been the colour of healing, resurrection and new life, life in full bloom and glory that we observe in the months ruled by Taurus. As Mephistopheles said in Faust: “My friend, all theory is grey, and green the golden tree of life.” I found it interesting to read that in the Middle Ages doctors were clad in green. In modern times medicine distanced itself from nature and the profession is no longer associated with green. Johfra wrote that the goddess is Isis herself, the one who brought the dismembered Osiris back to life. One of her epithets was Creatress of Green Things or Green Goddess giving birth to the fruits of the earth. The crescent moon at her feet was actually one of the attributes of Isis in ancient Egypt. It was also associated with bull’s horns. The cross on her chest is the cross of matter, embodiment and manifestation, and as Johfra puts it, “the four elements that are the basis of material revelation.” A few clarifications need to be made at this juncture. I am not limiting Isis to the Taurus archetype. She was a versatile goddess, who seemed to encompass a lot of aspects of the divine feminine principle. Egyptians themselves associated her with Virgo. She is related to Taurus only in one aspect, I believe; namely as a lunar goddess she was associated with the Moon, which in astrology is exalted in the sign of Taurus. Taurus is indeed the archetype of fertility, receptivity and flowing with the Tao (or the wu wei principle), all of which bears close affinity to the Moon symbolism. Also Eliade, a famous Romanian historian of religion, writes that the bull with its horns resembling crescent moon was a lunar creature, symbolic of the receptive mother earth.
The priestess is sitting between two pillars: Jachin and Boaz. My knowledge of Kabbalah or Freemasonry is rather limited and that is why I am going to quote Jofhra on this. He talks about “the red marble positive pillar of force or strength Jachin on the right, and the black marble negative pillar of form Boaz on the left.” In other words, the pillars seem to correspond to the active male polarity paired with the receptive female polarity. I have also found this distinction:
Boaz means strength, but not in a physical sense. It refers to a higher strength, a spiritual strength of awareness of the indestructibility of the real being, the Spirit.
Jakin means solidity, stability, expressing that the initiate has overcome the human life fluctuations and reached the stage of Being, standing in the eternal present.
Both definitions resonate with the essential meaning of Taurus, which to me comprises strength and steadfastness of Boaz with Jakin’s quality of being present and centred in the moment. After all, Taurus is the second sign, so this duality is very fitting. All becomes connected if we remember that Taurus is the sign of mystics. Both Buddha and for example Krishnamurti were born under the sign of Taurus and both of them spoke of the need to overcome the endless cycle of craving. Eckhart Tolle very fittingly has his Moon in Taurus, which resonates strongly with his power of now message. Stillness, pure being, contentedness and centredness characterize the highest expression of Taurean energy. It is extremely hard to choose just one quote from Krishnamurti that would capture what I am trying to say. To me, all of his teachings expressed the evolved energy of Taurus. However, the following quote captures my heart (I’ve got my astrological Moon, i.e. my nurturing and emotional aspect, in Taurus) because it shows Taurus as a sensual sign (the sign of the senses), the one able to sit still and listen to the music of the universe:
Attention involves seeing and hearing. We hear not only with our ears but also we are sensitive to the tones, the voice, to the implication of words, to hear without interference, to capture instantly the depth of a sound. Sound plays an extraordinary part in our lives: the sound of thunder, a flute playing in the distance, the unheard sound of the universe; the sound of silence, the sound of one’s own heart beating; the sound of a bird and the noise of a man walking on the pavement; the waterfall. The universe is filled with sound. This sound has its own silence; all living things are involved in this sound of silence. To be attentive is to hear this silence and move with it.
This will sound so sentimental but as I am writing this, I am looking at a large tree behind my window with birds singing perched on its branches covered in white flowers in full bloom. There seems to be a gentle breeze blowing. The same idyllic atmosphere of serenity permeates Jofhra’s vision of Taurus. The warrior, tired after all that running he did in the phase of Aries (https://symbolreader.wordpress.com/2013/03/23/images-of-the-zodiac-contemplating-aries/), has fallen into deep slumber, having perhaps satiated his desires or just being overcome by the gentle feeling of inertia. Fresh greenery, rivulets meandering in the bucolic countryside and the children playing happily, all create the feeling of peaceful restfulness and soothing tranquility that Taurus rejoices in. On a day like this we desire nothing else but lie down on the grass and just breathe in absolute stillness.
The middle part of the painting carries a deepest symbolic meaning and is its centre of gravity (gravity being a very Taurean word). The woman is Europa abducted by Jupiter who took the form of the bull. Europa was rather willing to be abducted, there was nothing dramatic in the mythical story (unlike in the myth of Persephone, which has more dark and Scorpionic undertones). Europa surrendered gently to the force of Jupiter’s desire, a gentle passivity being yet another quality of Taurus. The bull could also be Apis, the most sacred animal in the ancient Egypt. It was the symbol of strength, fertility and the cyclic renewal of life. The goddess could be then interpreted as Hathor, the cow goddess, who was the Egyptian equivalent of the Greek Aphrodite. A hymn to her shows the connection of the sign of Taurus to music and singing (Taurus rules the throat): “Thou art the Mistress of Jubilation, the Queen of the Dance, the Mistress of Music, the Queen of the Harp Playing, the Lady of the Choral Dance, the Queen of Wreath Weaving, the Mistress of Inebriety Without End”. She was looked upon as the embodiment of the Milky Way, the milk of which was believed to have flowed from the udders of a heavenly cow. She was a patron of all beautiful objects, which resonates with Taurean energy because people with a strong energy of that sign have a strong aesthetic sense. There is a myth that she cured Ra of depression by dancing in front of him. She was the embodiment of strength, certainty and a lack of doubt for ancient Egyptians.
The goddess can also be seen as Venus, the ruler of the sign Taurus. I find it interesting that the name ‘Venus’ comes from Sanskrit vanas meaning desire. She is the embodiment of desire that Mars lying at her feet just had to surrender to. The goddess riding the white bull certainly oozes primal eroticism. Venus the morning star shines over her head and she is holding a burning lamp, which, according to Johfra, is assigned to Venus in the Kabbalah. The rich girdle and the roses as well as the two white doves are also listed among the attributes of Venus. The body of the goddess is draped in green veil but she has nothing to hide, proudly presenting her bodily aspect, which is typical of Taureans who often feel natural oneness with their bodies and show high awareness of it. Eros, shown as the flying Cupid, is the son of Aphrodite (at least according to some versions of the myth), while the Greek word erasthai means love and desire. In other versions of the myth, notably in Hesiod, Eros was a primordial god like Gaia, which means he had no parents. He represents the immortal force of desire that has always been and always will be. It is worth pointing out that the word libido was introduced into psychology by Freud, whose Sun was also in Taurus. He was a self-appointed expert on human desires and drives.
Taurean on their spiritual paths need to transmute their desires before they can reach enlightenment or at least higher consciousness and understanding. Here I give you Krishnamurti’s take on desire and its essential nature:
Desire is the outcome of sensation, the outcome with all the images that thought has built. And this desire not only breeds discontent but a sense of hopelessness. Never suppress it, never discipline it but probe into the nature of it — what is the origin, the purpose, the intricacies of it? To delve deep into it is not another desire, for it has no motive; it is like understanding the beauty of a flower, to sit down beside it and look at it. And as you look it begins to reveal itself as it actually is — the extraordinarily delicate colour, the perfume, the petals, the stem and the earth out of which it has grown. So look at this desire and its nature without thought which is always shaping sensations, pleasure and pain, reward and punishment. Then one understands, not verbally, nor intellectually, the whole causation of desire, the root of desire. The very perception of it, the subtle perception of it, that in itself is intelligence. And that intelligence will always act sanely and rationally in dealing with desire.
Naturally, not every Taurean would be capable of such a form of spiritual attainment. Perhaps the light that Venus is holding or the star of Venus shining over her head can be related to Enlightenment.
I relate to this painting on an emotional level having my Moon in Taurus. It pleases me esthetically with the choice of colours, notably the richly embroidered copper frame (copper being the metal of Venus). I think it shows perfectly and beautifully the unity of spirit and matter and the essence of the Taurus archetype, which speaks of the spiritual force that shapes and animates all manifested form.